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Paralluelo late show puts Spain into World Cup semis

Spain celebrate Salma Paralluelo's goal against the Dutch that put them into the WWC semi-finals.

Spain celebrate Salma Paralluelo's goal against the Dutch that put them into the WWC semi-finals. Photo: AAP

Spain have defied the Netherlands and a mercurial performance from Stefanie van der Gragt to win through to their first-ever Women’s World Cup semi-final with a 2-1 win in Wellington.

A contest of mighty momentum swings looked settled when Mariona Caldentey scored an 81st-minute penalty for a dominant Spain.

However, Van de Gragt, the culprit for Spain’s goal with a handball just centimetres inside the box, turned Dutch saviour, scoring a 91st-minute equaliser to force extra time.

After Lineth Beerensteyn spurned a pair of superb chances at one end, 19-year-old sensation Salma Paralluelo raced up the pitch to settle it with a 111th-minute breakaway.

Spain’s prize is a place in the last four, where they may meet their group-stage tormentors Japan, who face Sweden later on Friday in their quarter-final.

The all-Euro contest was settled by the barest of margins: two Spanish strikes off the inside of the post.

For the opening hour, Spain played the Netherlands off the park, including an opening-half shot count of 11-0: the first time in World Cup history the Dutch contested a half without a shot.

The world No.6 rattled off the chances from the fifth minute, when Esther Gonzalez played a one-two with Jenni Hermoso before dinking an effort across goal.

Alba Redondo hit the post twice after receiving Hermoso’s flighted pass; first heading onto the frame, and striking the woodwork again after sticking out a boot at the rebound while on the ground.

Spain had an effort chalked off when Redondo met a cross poorly, inadvertently volleying to Gonzalez who tapped in from an offside position.

Then came the sliding-doors moments of two second-half penalties – one withdrawn and one given.

When substitute Lynn Wilms played Beerensteyn through and the Dutch forward collapsed under pressure from Irene Paredes, referee Stephanie Frappert awarded the world No.9 a spot kick.

Both Beerensteyn – who confessed prior to the match she was pleased to see the United States out of the tournament – and coach Andries Jonker fumed after a VAR reversal.

“The VAR didn’t do their work properly,” Jonker said.

“Spain deserved to win but this decision was wrong.”

Van de Gragt’s involvement in the two regular-time goals was all the more dramatic given it was her last professional match.

The 30-year-old signalled her intent to retire at tournament’s end, and displayed all the skills of a seasoned striker when she scored the late leveller with a bullet-like shot.

“She deserves a statue,” Jonker said.

“We respect her a lot. It is her decision (to retire) but if she changed her mind, she would be welcome.”

In extra time, Beerensteyn was again at the forefront, missing the target after a mazy run in the 105th minute and from a close-range header in the 110th.

A minute later, 19-year-old substitute Paralluelo – a former sprinter – provided the decisive act, showing composure beyond her years to race onto Hermoso’s pass and slot home.

“It means everything for me,” she said.

“Great euphoria to live through it and I’m extremely happy.”

The result ends a run of four straight losses in the knockout rounds of major tournaments for Spain, who are firming to lift the sport’s greatest prize.

“We’ve always dreamed of something like this,” coach Jorge Vilda said.

“We’ve reached a semi-final for the first time but we’re not stopping here … our goal: to win.”

– AAP

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